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- People in story:
- Mr E Bovingdon
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- Contributed on:
- 07 October 2004
Following the declaration of war on the 3rd Sept. 1939 I registered for National Service and proposed to my girl friend of two years standing. Both were accepted and we duly got engaged on the 15th Sept. her 20th birthday. After buying the rings, well exceeding our budget, we were broke just enough for a small celebration, a visit to the cinema and a quick snack and a milk shake at the King's Cross Black and White milk bar In the following weeks we sat down and made plans. We would save like mad and aim for a wedding on her 21st birthday the 15th Sept. 1940. Plans went ahead smoothly, unfortunately the 15th was a Sunday so we had to settle for Sat. the 14th. We booked the reception at Reggiories Restaurant which was across the road from King's Cross Station London, my fiancée lived locally. Then fate intervened, we were now in July and my calling up papers arrived, to report to H.M.S Royal Arthur at Skegness. After settling in at Butlins Holiday Camp, taken over and renamed for the duration as a Naval Training Camp I put in an application for leave to get married on the 14th Sept. It was turned down flat. The days were flying and I was beginning to panic, neither family knew that I had been refused leave. I made an application again this time for compassionate leave to get married as all was booked, paid for and ready to go, I was given 48 hours. On leaving Skegness on the evening of the 13th Sept I caught a train to King's Cross but a short way before Hitchin we came to a halt, it was announced that we could proceed no further due to a bomb on the line further ahead and were advised to leave the train and make our own arrangements. I left and started hiking towards Hitchin when the rain started and did it rain, torrential. Trudging along a country lane, weighed down with a soaking wet Naval uniform including overcoat and carrying gas mask and tin helmet, compulsory on going on leave, I'd had enough. Passing a farm I spied a barn and decided to see if I could shelter for a couple of hours until it eased off. Heaven, warm and dry for a couple of hours when I decided to get moving again. I hadn't been underway for more than ten minutes when fortune smiled, a good Samaritan, a milk lorry stopped and gave me a lift to Hitchin Station. I arrived at King's Cross around 2 o'clock in the morning, a heavy air raid in progress, no public transport running only one thing for it, more walking. My family lived in Highgate, North London, I haven't a clue what time I arrived there I was dead beat, rang the bell several times no answer, then remembering air raid shelter. Down to bottom of garden to find the family, Mum and Dad, two brothers two sisters huddled in the Anderson shelter hardly room to get in. After telling my story the family decided to hell with the air raid, back to the house hot bath dry clothes and food. My Sisters were worried about valeting my uniform for the wedding. Got a few hours sleep in before going to church. Wedding went of peacefully no hitches and we all proceeded to the restaurant. The tables were laid in an extension at the rear of the building that can only be described as a large conservatory with a glass roof. The meal started well enough then the sirens went off, we carried on but could now hear the distinctive noise of German bombers and distant crunch of falling bombs. Suddenly we were deafened by anti-aircraft fire to discover that 5" anti-aircraft guns had been hauled by vehicles to the front of the restaurant and were merrily banging away together with searchlights.
By this time the staff had had enough and wanted to close the restaurant half way through the proceedings but the guests 100% had other ideas and made it plain they had come to celebrate a wedding and were going to see it through. The staff magnificently stayed with us, finished the meal a couple of speeches when we decided they were right; it was a bit selfish insisting on staying on in such surroundings, after all it was a huge glass roof overhead so we called it a day. Outside it was eerie, streets deserted, no public transport, a few intrepid cabbies were still plying their taxis we let those in most need have these the remainder made for the tube station which was still running. My in-laws lived a short distance away so my party walked there through deserted streets with planes still droning over and hearing the occasional bombs still falling.
We attempted to retire but it was impossible, the house was a large Victorian terraced house with a huge basement kitchen so we decided to go down there for a bit of safety and make a cup of tea. Low and behold on arrival we found that half of the family had the same idea and after tea and chat my Wife and I finished up on a mattress under a very large solid wood kitchen table.
Next day Sunday time to start thinking of returning to the "Ship." Spent a pleasant day with the family, when it was time to go,air raid in progress, insisted on walking to King's Cross alone, just as well, in that short journey it was necessary to don tin hat due to occasional bits of shrapnel falling from anti-aircraft fire. Why did we have to pick the Battle of Britain weekend?
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